Prayer and the Autonomic Nervous System


By Kimberly Burnham

Do you have a regular prayer practice? Does it promote relaxation, minimize anxiety, improve your visual focus and reduce your cardiovascular risk?

A 2014 study on Muslim prayer (Salat) entitled, “Effect of Muslim prayer (Salat) on alpha electroencephalography and its relationship with autonomic nervous system activity” by  Doufesh H, Ibrahim F, Ismail NA and Wan Ahmad WA, found, “During salat, parasympathetic activity increased and sympathetic activity decreased. Therefore, regular salat practices may help promote relaxation, minimize anxiety, and reduce cardiovascular risk.”

So what does this mean in terms of health benefits? The parasympathetic nervous system, one parts of the autonomic nervous system is also known by the nickname, “rest and digest.” With parasympathetic activity increased your ability to rest and to digest your food increases. I had a nutrition teacher who used to say, “You can get more nutritional value from a hot dog with friends than the best organic, gourmet meal with people you can’t stand.”

The sympathetic nervous system is also known as the “fight or flight” system. Part of the autonomic nervous system, the sympathetic system raises blood pressure.

The study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine also, “showed a significant positive correlation in the occipital and parietal electrodes.”  This means the occipital lobe of the brain in the back of the head and the parietal lobe on the top of the head is positively affected by regular prayer. One of the primary functions of the occipital lobe is vision. When the sympathetic nervous system is on high alert, the pupils dilate. This mean your distance vision is broader but less focused. The study indicates that with a regular prayer practice your ability to see clearly and use your eyes in a focused way for reading or studying increases.

The parietal lobe is the sensory cortex or home to our ability to take in sensory information like the color of red, the sound of birds outside the window, the texture and warmth of a baby’s face, the smell of freshly cut grass, or the taste of dark chocolate.

It makes me wonder how a regular prayer practices for children and adults would contribute to education in our society and overall health via improved digestion.

About Kimberly Burnham

Author of "Awakenings: Peace Dictionary, Language and the Mind, A Daily Brain Health Program" Kimberly Burnham, PhD (Integrative Medicine) investigates the relationship between memory, language, caring and pattern recognition to create a daily brain health exercise program enabling people to achieve better neurological health, mood, and quality of life. She is on a mission to create more peace and understanding in the world by collecting and writing about the nuanced meaning of “Peace” in 4,000 different languages and is looking for funding to complete the project. Known as The Nerve Whisperer, Kimberly uses words (books, presentations, and poetry), health coaching, guided visualization, and hands-on therapies (CranioSacral therapy, acupressure, Matrix Energetics, Reiki, and Integrative Manual Therapy) to help people heal from nervous system and autoimmune conditions. She also focuses on vision issues like macular degeneration and supports people looking for eye exercises to improve driving and reading skills as well as athletic visual speed. An award-winning poet, Kimberly grew up overseas. The child of an international businessman and an artist, she learned Spanish in Colombia; French in Belgium; then Japanese in Tokyo and has studied both Italian and Hebrew as an adult. The author of “My Book: Self-Publishing, a Guided Journal”, she can be reached for health coaching, publishing help, bible study zoom presentations or talking about peace at NerveWhisperer@gmail.com or http://www.NerveWhisperer.Solutions.

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